Party In the Back: Hot Patterns 1170 Fast & Fabulous Blouse-Back T

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48 hours before we left town for a long weekend in Charlotte, NC I decided I needed a new shirt. Well, I’ve been needing summer tops and I decided to sew ALL THE SHIRTS before I left town. I picked the HP Blouse-Back T because it promised to be both Fast and Fabulous and available for a PDF download. Plus, I saw Lori’s version for her daughter and was all over it.

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Pattern: I usually hate PDF paper taping. I’m all about the copy shop pattern copy. But, this was not bad! I taped while talking to Trena on the phone on Tuesday night. Cut and sewed on Wednesday night. And made a second version in red and white (not photographed) on Thursday night. I timed it the second night and it was less than 90 minutes from cut to hem.

Fabric: Hoarded lightweight stripes from PR Weekend in Montreal five years ago (can’t wait to go back to Montreal in a month ) and solid navy cotton from FabricMart. It was destined to be something else, but when I saw them together I was like, ‘duh’.

Since Lori let me know her daughter was 5 ft 9, I knew I’d want to shorten the back a bit (I’m barely 5 ft 6). Now, seeing photos, I might add the length back for skinny jeans.

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Please note in the blue and white stripe version I did the shortening all wrong. I shortened the back at the waist line rather than at the hem. Which means it was too short at the sides so I had to improvise a bit and blend the hem lines on the front and back. And the center front has a curved rather than straight hem because of my changes.

Other Deets:

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I measure into a 14 but sew a 12 in HP knits going by my underbust measurement (34 inches). I contemplated using stripes at the front and totally copying the fashion drawing. But, I was worried about the stripes not being level if I didn’t make a good FBA. I don’t normally need an FBA in HP. But, this time I chose to do a dartless FBA (using the method in ‘The Perfect Fit’ from the Singer Sewing Reference Library) because of fears of it riding up in the front with stripes. I added one inch in length and 1/2 inch in width.

I went with a dartless FBA because the shirt has an easy vibe to it. If I sized down one more, I might make a FBA with darts. But, I’m honestly really pleased with how this came out.

I also narrowed the width of the neckband by two inches.

And chickened out and put the stripes in the back anyway. Partly because the solid navy is heavier than the stripe fabric and the flowiest fabric should be in the back so that it hangs correctly.

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I really really love this little top. Let me know if you think my FBA worked. Or if you think I need more anything before attempting some stripes at the front :-) I plan to make a few more this summer for sure.

I’m Needlepointing. Yes. Seriously.

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If you can believe it, I’ve started a needlepoint project. You can’t believe it either can you? It all started while helping someone find a needlepoint shop and a finisher for a very cute needlepoint belt. After visiting the store several times, I thought needlepoint might be just the ticket for something to do while watching TV or traveling. And, with trips to Charlotte, NC for Memorial Day and Montreal for the Fourth of July, I have plenty of upcoming time on the road.

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After scouring the internet for something ‘fun’ and not too Stepford Wives, I settled on the Kristine Dickerson project, multicolored Union Jacks. I chose this one because, duh, they are Union Jacks. And, because the colors are bright, the needlepoint holes are big and the design lines are clear (i.e. no shading for this beginner).

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As you may surmise, this will likely take me a few years to finish. But, it’s the perfect thing for me to work on in bits and pieces.

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I’m doing all the crosses of St. George first (the biggest cross). Then, I’ll do the colored background / corners of the cross of St. Andrew. The colored St. Patrick X will be next to last and I’ll finish all the whites in the X for the Cross of St. Andrew. I honestly came up with this course of action by picking biggest swaths of color to smallest. I figure by the time I get to the end, I’ll have mastered the stitches and it will make ‘finishing’ even faster because I’ve saved the smallest bits.

I am also obviously someone who separates their Skittles and M&Ms into colors.

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And, if you’re wondering what I’m going to do with it. Wall hanging for sure. I am not a needlepoint pillow person. But, it will look terrific in my house as wall art. I’ve also committed to ONE needepoint project at a time and NO Christmas ornaments (They are not my style. I will not get sucked in.).

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So, hip hip hooray for expensive new hobbies.  And, um, check this space in two to three years for a finished product.

Needles for Miles

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Well, I actually got two via Craigslist. One is a Brother KH-230 and KR-230 ribber and the other is a Brother KH-830 and KR-830 ribber. The 230 is a bulky with no patterning – very basic. The 830 is a standard with punchcard patterning. There are also two four-color yarn changers and a Knitleader (a system where you can draw your pattern onto graph paper — essentially). They came with some of the manuals and two coursework books on the machine and ribber. I also found a zillion books and manuals online and got a neat book on hand techniques for the machine from Jordan for my birthday last month.

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Deteriorated spongebar

I spent a big chunk of the weekend cleaning the 830. It was sitting at least ten years in storage and is almost 40 years old to begin with. I replaced the sponge bar with weather stripping and cleaned all the needles. Some of the mechanisms were stuck. But, nothing a all-purpose machine oil and Tri Flow couldn’t fix.

Both machines are older and more basic than later versions that came out. But, they are perfect to learn on.

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Replacement sponger using weather stripping from the hardware store


With 200 needles I got really tired really fast of putting them all back in the machine after their denatured spirits soaking. So, I got Jordan to help.

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With a clean machine, I’m ready to get started with lessons. Well, first my instructor is going to look over the machines and see if there are any other problems or repairs I need to make.

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Tampa 2015

When I was uploading photos for this post, I realized I was in Tampa this exact same time last year.

I’m back from my dad’s wedding weekend about an hour north of Tampa. This time, Jordan came along and we spent two days in Naples, Florida lounging about a pool before driving up to Tampa for the wedding. On our way to the exurbs of Tampa, we met up with Stitches and Seams‘ Debbie Cook!! I’ve been reading Debbie’s blog since I found out there was even sewing on the internet. She’s helped me fix at least one dress (can’t find the original post about it. weird.)  and even mocked up different front door colors for me six years ago. So, it’s no surprise that I felt like I was meeting a friend! Between sucking down a pitcher of mimosas we talked about sewing, Tampa and blogging. Thanks Debbie!

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Vouge 1086 blogged here

They say weddings are nice because it’s a good time to see family. So true! This trip was the first time my dad had all his kids together in seven years. Look at that, the kids are even in age (and apparently height) order! Gah. Florida is not oily skin + makeup friendly….

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Despite all my talk, I did not make a dress for my dad’s wedding. I wore my Burda knit bubble dress. And, it fit perfectly in with the peach, pink, purple color scheme. Below I’m standing with the son and daughter of my dad’s new wife. She was her mom’s attendant so we looked coordinated in wedding photos.

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And, I’m only posting this photo below because Jordan looked so dapper! He’s wearing a cream seersucker suit that I slightly altered for him last summer. I took in the jacket and pants at the waist and hemmed the pants. There are no words for how much I despise alterations. But, he looked very sharp. I’m not sure if it was more of a Matlock, Colonel Sanders or Diddy White Party vibe he was rocking.

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Two Hot Patterns Cosmopolitan Dresses

I forgot how much I love the Hot Patterns Cosmopolitan Dress. And, I am apparently never going to make good on my commitment to swear off poly knits.  I made this dress twice over the weekend and twice about seven years ago. Spring is slowly coming and I wanted to try this dress out again in poly before I cut into silk jersey.


While OOP, it’s readily available on Etsy and Ebay (and I suspect a lot of stashes). A newer alternative might bethe Lady Skater dress. Very similar lines I think.

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  • Bust darts for the win!
  • Defined waist band with great shaping.
  • LOVE the scoop neckline.
  • Somehow, no ‘real’ FBA needed for me. But, I added 1/2 inch of length to the bodice on the blue and gold version. The waistline  seam wasrightundermybewbs <– See what I did there?

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  • Shortened bust and back darts by 1/2 inch
  • Raised neckline by 2.5 inches (might lower it 1/2 inch)
  • Made more of a U than V shape to the neckline
  • Added five inches to the shorter length (might cut that an inch)
  • Cut the back on the fold

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Construction Stuff:

  • Skipped the facings and self-lined the bodice and waistband. I wanted a beefier top so my newly acquired back ripples aren’t on display.

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  • Used $1 a yard tricot to line the skirt. I hate clingy knit skirt. Not cute.
  • Did not hem a t’ing. It’s a knit! I hate hemming knits. Even with a coverstitch.
  • Reduced the enclosed seam allowance at the waist and neckline to 1/4 inch
  • Sewed on my sewing machine and finished on my serger

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Both fabrics were purchased and sewn within the last six months. The grey is a poly knit from FabricMart (no longer available). It had a coordinating mini print too. That would have been my waistline and sash (or sleeves too??)  But, PEOPLE BOUGHT ALL OF IT before I could get some. The blue and gold is from Jomar in Philadelphia. I like the composition of the grey fabric better. Much beefier. I like the colors on the blue and gold better (and they are my sorority colors Eee-Yip!).


I’m still working on the shape of the neckline. I want a very distinct U. I might cut the bodice one last time from some scraps to see if I have got the look I want.

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No ‘real’ photos of me in the dress. Sunday is a hair wash day and it’s still too dark to take photos when I get home from work in the evening. But, here’s an elevator pic I posted on Instagram. Still wearing boots in the end of April if you can imagine. I got a gabillion compliments yesterday. Probably because I’ve only worn jeans and sweaters the last six months.


And for those of you who have texted, tweeted and emailed about the truly sad and sobering state of affairs in Baltimore city right now and the foolishness that persists, Jordan and I okay. I’m at work. We’re walking our dog at night and sleeping in our home.

I Totally Want a Knitting Machine

A few years ago there was a train wreck of a reality show about a knit bikini designer in LA. All her samples were made on a knitting machine. Until I got a glimpse on that show, I had no idea knitting machines existed. And lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about getting one for myself. But, a few ‘issues’. Only two companies still make metal-bed knitting machines for the home market (which would allow me to do ribbing). One is a newish Chinese company that clones Brother knitting machines and the other is Silver Knitting (Silver Reed/Studio/Singer) which has a long history of machine making. But, after seeing a machine knitting demo today, I think I want a pre-owned Brother with ribber. A new machine is just way out of my budget. Used machines appear to be plentiful on eBay, easy and Craigslist. But, finding one in good working order can be harder. And, I’m not really clear on what they should cost. Especially considering I know *nothing* about how they work. And, they don’t seem as easy to repair as vintage sewing machines. I decided it might be best for me to get a demo from a knitting machine instructor, so I would at least know what I was looking for and what gauge knitting machine (standard or  bulky) I would want. I went to Woolstock north of Baltimore City where the owner, Leslye Solomon, is a machine knitting instructor and author.  photo IMG_20150411_114659352_HDR_zpsn8712bjn.jpg It was a GREAT demo. I mean, I have no idea which gauge machine I want because I liked them both for different reasons. But, the instructor is a big fan of Brother knitting machines (no longer made) and sells the Chinese clone. I feel totally iffy on spending that much money on a new hobby and really iffy on buying a clone.

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Standard gauge with fair isle motif

So, I’m on the hunt for a vintage Brother knitting machine and ribber that actually work (the nearest knitting machine repair shop is two hours from me in Pennsylavania). I’ve got a few online searches set up for one and hope to find a late model Brother and ribber by the end of the year. Gauge? TBD. But, After this demo, I know at least how the machine should work (which I didn’t be fore) and what it should be able to do.

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Bulky gauge with fair isle on the left and sample ‘lace’ and cables on the right

Unlike sewing blogs, machine knitting blogs don’t seem to be as abundant? I’m guessing because machine knitting’s hey dey was in the 80s and before and the women who machine knit aren’t really into blogging? Within my own feed though, I did find four machine knitters, Rachelle at Smoking Needles, Petit Main Sauvage, Kay The Sewing Lawyer and Kathryn from I Made This. Plus, this really interesting article by Karen at Did You Make That? The machines don’t seem to be as popular here on the east coast of the US. But, in the pacific northwest and midwest, business is booming! Plus, in the UK and Europe, there seem to be quite a few machine knitters. I’m assuming the climate has a lot to do with this. There’s also a super active Yahoo group and Facebook group. Great for inspiration photos. I also found a slew of people to follow on Instagram to see their knitting machine work.

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Ribbing along the bottom and stripe sample above

So, what are my machine knitting goals? Pretty modest I think. 1. I’d like to make a couple of scarves a year. I love scarves and manage to lose them more often than I care to admit. Jordan likes scarves too in bright colors but short of cashmere ($$$) good scarves seem hard to find 2. Two sweaters a year would be amazing to me. I LOVE sweaters. I’ve been buying vintage from the 80s sweaters from ebay and the thrift store and trimning them down to size. Why? Because they were actually made of wool instead of cotton or acrylic.

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20 rows in less than three minutes!!

3. A pair of socks every now and then. In winter, I live in wool socks from REI and such. I wear boots most of the winter and would love warm, cute socks. 4. Occasionally, my own knit fabric to do cut and sew projects from. I am able to get great sweater knits at Mood when I go to NY. But, the pilling factor is a gamble. I don’t know how often I would do this. But, it’s nice to know I might have the option of making my own fabric.

Don’t worry. Sewing is still my first love! And, as Amanda pointed out to me yesterday, yarn is expensive.I also muslined my Hot Patterns Cosmopolitan dress over the weekend. I need to raise the neckline another 1.5 inch and shorten the darts. And, I want a slightly less ‘scoop’ to the neck line. So, I’ll do one more version in a poly knit before cutting into my silk jersey.

20150411-DSC_0125 photo 20150411-DSC_0125_zpshp0jhky9.jpg Unfortunately, it’s too low cut to keep as wearable. But, I really ended up liking the scrap fabric combo! And, I could not love this pattern more. So, any other machine knitters out there? Any advice for me?

That Time I Found *Exactly* What I Wanted in the Garment District

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My girl’s trip to Santa Fe was cancelled at the last minute and I decided to go to NY for the day to see the Lauren Bacall exhibit at the Museum at FIT. I was in a chat with Karen and Claudine and they both came in to the City too.

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The exhibit is housed at FIT which also had two other excellent exhibits. One of St. Laurent and Halston’s influence on the 70s style and another on counterfeit and licensed copies in fashion.

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I never thought I’d be into 70s fashion. But, seeing this presentation definitely made me change my mind. I also wanted to fondle every t’ing.

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After seeing the exhibit, I’m totally motivated to make some simple knit shirt dresses. I actually had this in mind over the winter. But, now I see exactly what I want to do.

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Of course, I had to do a little fabric shopping. I bought two of the three things I was looking for and like four things I wasn’t!  But, the one that makes me *the* very happiest is this turquoise silk jersey from Mood.

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It’s 55 inches wide and the perfect color for me to copy this Michael Kors dress seen here on Beyonce. Do you want to jump up and cheer for me? Because, I get giddy just seeing this!!


I’ll be using the Hot Patterns Cosmopolitan pattern when I get around to making this up. But, I honestly squealed when I found this fabric!! It’s what I’ve been looking for a couple of years now.

And, guess who we found in the Garment District? Lauren of Lladybird! And, by found. I mean: Guess who I messaged on Twitter when I saw she was going to be in New York and asked if she wanted to meet and go shopping together?

IMG_20150319_152328385She is as petite and as southern as I thought she would be. And funny. And, a really specific fabric shopper. I should take lessons. I just start salivating and buy all the things. Also, I came home and told Jordan I wanted a nose ring. Well, I’d been telling him since I left my government job that I wanted a tongue ring and he was (horrified) ADAMANT that it was a terrible idea. I thought the nose ring would put the tongue ring into perspective. But, instead, he just reminded me that I’m ten years past either being acceptable. I’ll just have to stick with crazy colored nail polish as my silent protest of really being a pretty standard issue buppie. Who am I kidding? I almost passed out watching a friend get a belly ring in the 90s.

I feel I also need to explain these photos.


After I got home, from our last trip, I decided I was going to buy a Selfie Stick. Yes, I know. It’s RIDICULOUS. But, I hate asking people to take my photo when traveling. And, I personally hate looking at other people’s travel photos when they are just of buildings and not of them or of people. And, apparently, it’s rude to ask people to take multiple photos until you’re happy with the one they took. So, I got a selfie stick and thought it was time I used it in the wild. Everyone (but me) felt RIDICULOUS and somewhat horrified that we were using a selfie stick in the middle of Mood. We couldn’t stop laughing at how RIDICULOUS it all was. But, you know what? I got a good photo out of it. Selfie Sticks for Everyone!20150319-IMG_20150319_145221692 photo 20150319-IMG_20150319_145221692_zpscf776116.jpgI couldn’t get this starry blue and brown silk jersey off my mind. I think it would be perfect as one of those 70s style shirt dresses. I may have asked Lauren to look for it when she went back to Mood. And, I may have also called Mood and asked them to send me some. I bought a bunch of other stuff too that I’m too lazy to photograph. And, knowing me, they won’t get sewn until my retirement.

It was an exhausting but fun one day trip into New York. I really need to make myself do this more often.

And now, I leave you with some Mondrian from the Museum

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Coming Down the Pike

I’m not a big fan of posts like this because I hardly ever stick to a plan. But, I thought I would share some projects percolating in my head.

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First, I want to make a spring coat. I love my red rain coat. But, I want something a little sleeker and more refined that works in rain and just plain cool but not cold weather. I’ve had my eye on this Burdastyle 2-2011-125 coat for years (not available for download). Now, I know with my full bust and short neck I’m not ‘supposed’ to wear double breasted. I. Don’t. Give. A. Fig. You can pry my military-inspired clothing off my cold, dead  G-cup body.  I think this will be a nice long project and hope to at least muslin by next weekend.

Second, I need a dress to wear to my dad’s May wedding. Something appropriately bright and cheerful that does not say, “I’m totally wigged out by all of this and I really just want my mom back. ” While it’s a little maternity on me, I really love this polka dot Burda top. I think I want to make the dress version, Burdstyle 5-2010-103 using another polka dot silk in my stash. But, the cream and polka dots might not photograph well and leave me looking like a mid 70s bride in photos.

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I also like this similarly styled dress with a different waist treatment. So, I might make up this Burdastyle 6-2010-106 also in this red, cream, brown and black silk I bought in China dog years ago and take them both. I’m thinking the waist will be less maternity. And, there are darts which might make my FBA easier.

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I’ve also always had a thing for this chiffon wrap dress from Burdastyle 4-2011-134. I attempted it over a year ago but didn’t have enough fabric. I think it’s such a cool look and would be great for a late spring wedding. The main fabric is  cotton silk also from my first trip to China. Obviously, I’dd try to add a little bit of dart for some shaping.

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When we go to the wedding, we’re going to go early and do some beach time. And, I will need a swimsuit. Not a single one I own still fits. Well, it fits, but it’s not pretty, So, I’d like to sew something up. And, probably a caftan too.

Right. That’s like five or six garments. In ten weeks. Obviously, I won’t get them all done. Which is why I hate posts like this and hardly ever stick to a plan :-) Feel free to weigh in on what is the most appropriate or maybe even switching up the print for a better pattern? Looking at these, I’m tempted to sew the wrap dress in the polka dot… #immobilizedbyindecision

Empire Waist, Surplice Green Sweater: Burda 5-2009-103

 photo DSC_0148_zpshqw7nidi.jpg I imagine this is the last cold-weather top left in me before I start some spring sewing. I just CANNOT with winter anymore. Is it me, or as you get older, do you just get totally over cold weather? We had a surprise snow storm over the weekend.  They called for 1 – 3 inches and we ended up getting 7 – 10. The roads were such a mess! We were slipping and sliding all over, got stuck at an intersection and had to leave our car on the side of the road. We ended up taking a bus home (yay for mass transit!) plus a one mile walk. After all that, I STILL didn’t make my 10,000 steps. Grrrr. I’m really over winter. Just four weeks until spring!  photo DSC_0156_zpskajufpxs.jpg I think the greens of this sweater knit sort or looks forward to spring, don’t you?  It’s interesting, I rarely sew green. I love a green nail polish, but think I’ve sewn only two green items. This luscious fabric is from my December 2013 trip to Mood. Anywho, it’s very similar in look as this blue cowl top and this blue sweater dress (Loved that dress. I should have treated the fabric better). But, this knit is the sturdiest of the three with far better recovery. And, as I type this, I just remembered that I can’t remember if I pre-treated before cutting or not. Ugh. I think I didn’t pre-treat and have sewn myself a dry-clean only sweater #RookieMistake  photo 000001764893_zpsxgaoqpx1.jpg I chose this pattern because it combined a wrap top with a fitted waist. Both  features good for a busty hourglass. And I LOVE it.  photo DSC_0158_zps6wca3i4m.jpg I sewed a 40 grading to a 44 at the hip. I also tried taking 1/3 inch off the shoulder seams. I usually take 1/4 inch and think I may stick with that. Sadly, I find the neckline wide for me and had a bunch of photos where you could really see my bra strap — versus the ones here where it’s just peeking. I’ve since altered the pattern adding another 1/2 inch to the neckline on each side. I made a 1.5 inch  FBA on this top and added a bust dart, it’s almost invisible in this sweater knit. I’ve since added to the pattern an additional 1/2 inch under the bust. If there is something I personally can’t stand it’s a bust bifurcated by a seam. It makes me ragey and sad inside.  photo DSC_0161_zpsqajbs9zy.jpg Looking at the made up version from the magazine, it looks like my bust is just eating up all the length in the bust. Maybe what I need it a bigger FBA rather than just throwing some length on to the upper bodice. And, let’s face it. This is too low cut on its own.  I’ve raised the neckline 1/2 inch for my next version.  photo 000001764897_zpschvrm3vr.jpg    photo DSC_0163_zpseys2zy3k.jpgI like how I walked around all day with a massive center part at the back of my head from my twist out. I really need to get a second mirror in the bathroom.  Moving on, as drafted, the pattern already has a center back seam so I made my swayback adjustment at the waist line. I think the darts give awesome shaping.  photo DSC_0129_zpshs3bm7si.jpg I think this would be better on me a few inches longer (becuz I hates my thighs). So, I’ve also altered the pattern to add three inches in length.  photo DSC_0152_zpsva1hos3w.jpg There you have it. A good sweater that I hope will be great the next time I make it. Can’t you see this in spring weight knit with 3/4 sleeves?